Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Natural Hair Glossary: Is It Really Necessary?

     First, let me begin by saying that I have been talking about Natural Hair in the Northeast over the past week during a talk that I gave at Columbia University Teachers College, which was very enjoyable, (both the audience and giving the talk) followed by serving on a panel at the Black PhD Network, where I spoke on a Diversity and Inclusion Panel, of which natural hair was surely part of the dialogue.  I was on a panel at the latter with Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President Emerita of Bennet College and Dr. Kittles, one of the co-founders of Ancestry.com, the company that traces folks roots, via genetic testing. That was a wonderful experience!!!

Speaking on a panel at the Black PhD conference with Dr. Alfreda Brown of
Kent State University, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President Emerita of Bennett College and
Dr. Rick Kittles of the University of Arizona, Department of Surgery and co-founder of Ancestry.com 
   While conversing with folks at these talks, I noticed that terms kept arising that are used in the natural hair world and I must say, some times I find them to be, well, less than necessary.  Here is a link that provides a list of most, if not all of the so-called natural hair terms: http://www.asiamnaturally.com/glossary.html   I am going to make an attempt to clarify some of these terms, in a straightforward manner, hoping we can stop talking about our hair without the necessity of a full glossary so my thoughts are below.

First, here are the brochures of the two wonderful events I attended.  Thanks to any and everyone who was there and bought my books and N.I.C.E. t-shirts (10% of all proceeds will go to a homeless organization for the shirts)!

Now to, Clarification of the Natural Hair Glossary

      All of the terms for length, including armpit, collar bone length, etc., does not seem to be necessary.  Your hair is either short or long or something in between. The same goes for the Big or the Teeny Weeny Afro.  It's just short or big, that's all. As for Baggy, there is no way to make this sound cute or important.  It's a term to describe that you are just sleeping with a plastic bag on your head to keep moisture from getting on the pillow. The Big Chop or BC is just cutting your hair, that's all.  Cutting out perm is usually the case.  There is nothing big about it. You're just cutting your hair. BSS for Beauty Supply Store is just a place that sells hair care products and all kind of other hair and non-hair related products. These kind of stores are plentiful in Black communities and are rarely run or owned by Black people but they make a lot of money. Creamy crack is just a term for relaxers.  I believe the term emerged from Chris Rock's film called "Good Hair."  And while we are at it, can we eliminate the term relaxer?  There is nothing relaxing about putting deleterious chemical on our scalps and hair, which often leads to burns and loss of hair. Holy grail is a term used to describe finding a hair product that really works nicely on natural hair but maybe that term is a bit much as per the terms origins, it refers to a bowl or dish.  I must admit I've been guilty of using this term to describe shea butter and in a blog post/contest, but I think that is going too far since there is really nothing holy about it. It's just good, natural and from Africa so I like it.  Nappyersary/Nattyversary is a term to describe the anniversary of the day one decides to go natural.  Really?  Seriously?  I won't comment on this.  Let's just not have that term. Pineappling is when one pulls their hair on top of their head in puffs (one or two).  Can we just not refer to our hair as fruit? Protective styling is used when someone adds weave, perm or a wig to protect their actual hair.  Let's be honest.  There is no need for protection. This is merely a term to justify the perm, weave, etc. The word that ticks me off the most is transitioning. This term supposedly refers to gradually going from non-natural hair (perm, weave, etc.) to natural (wearing your hair as it grows out of your scalp). The reality is that one is not transitioning but merely being true to who/she is, naturally.

     The bottom-line is that we don't need a glossary to support/explain all that is done with our beautiful, natural hair.  It's odd at worst and cumbersome at best to have all of these terms to explain/justify our natural hair actions.  Let's just be natural and know that Natural Is Cool Enough. That's N.I.C.E.!

Monday, October 13, 2014

N.I.C.E. Pauses to Discuss Ebola: A Naturalista's Public Health and Cultural Competency Perspective

     As a person who holds a Master's Degree in Public Health (MPH) from Yale University and a Doctorate in Community Health from Columbia Teacher's College (Ed.D), and who also served as a Public Health Professor for many years, I have decided that I cannot hold back on my perspective in terms of what is happening in regard to Ebola from the vantage point of Cultural Competency. I have two textbooks that I have written on the subject of Cultural Competency, mentioned per this blog previously.  The first is entitled Cultural Competency for Health Administration and Public Health: http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763761646/  and the second Cultural Competency for the Health Professional: http://www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763761646/ . 
     In these books, I have case studies, which provide insight as to what should and should not be done, in caring for patients, from a culturally competent vantage point.  In the recent Ebola outbreak, there have been a number of problems. Although I was a biology major for my undergraduate studies and the scientific aspects of the virus are compelling, I'm not going to get into the virus itself and its origin, the transmission process, the epidemiological implications of the matter, etc..  Natural is Cool Enough is generally a blog about natural hair and clearly, venturing too far into science at N.I.C.E. (unless I am talking about chemicals as they relate to hair/scalp, etc.) would be a tremendous deviation from the theme.

     But, since this is a Natural Is Cool Enough pause, here are my key thoughts in regard to Ebola and cultural competency:

1.  It is culturally incompetent, to use the term West Africa as a broad term to discuss the Ebola outbreak,  as the current situation pertains to specific West African nations, not the entire region. West Africa consists of the following nations: Benin, Burkina FasoCameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, The GambiaGhana, Guinea, Guinea-BissauLiberiaMali, Mauritania, NigerNigeriaSenegalSierra Leone, and Togo.

Here is a map of  West Africa:

Here is a map of the entire continent of Africa:

     If Ebola has only been widespread in the nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, why is the term West Africa being used, in discussing Ebola, without clarity, at all times. There should always be an indication that it is not the entire region that has been impacted but a few nations. Per the CDC Senegal has only had one case and it was travel associated. There were only a small number of cases in Nigeria.  Per the latter two nations, Ebola has been contained.  Note the detail here regarding the relevant countries: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/distribution-map.html

     So why is the term West Africa used so frequently when the Ebola outbreak is discussed, rather than only using the names of the nations that have been impacted?  Each of these nations are different based on culture and many other categories. They are not the same.This broad based approached to discussing them, in terms of Ebola, is incorrect. The lack of understanding that they are different nations with different, cultures and often languages, etc. is an indication of cultural incompetence and a distortion of information.

2.  A person should not be subjected to Ebola screening with a temperature check in the airport, if they are from a West African nation that has not been impacted by Ebola.  Such measures that have been put in place should, if deemed necessary and appropriate (that is a matter for another discussion) only be in regard to those specific nations where Ebola has been found.  See number one above to understand why.

3. Africa is a continent, not a country, so indicating that Africa, in general,  has Ebola cases without speaking specifically of those nations that are impacted is also a clear indication of lack of knowledge. Also, let's look at the numbers of those nations that are impacted.  The total population of Liberia is ~4.294 million, Sierra Leone, ~6.092 million and Guinea, ~11.75 million. Take a look at the chart above for the cases that have taken place thus far and compare them to the total population.  So the percentages that are being discussed are as follows:

          Liberia:  4076/4294000=~.094923%

Sierra Leone:  2593/6092000=~.042564%
         Guinea:  1097/11750000 = ~.0093362

     West Africa at large has a population of approximately 245 million according to the World Health Organization: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20179737~pagePK:34370~piPK:42768~theSitePK:4607,00.html

     The current outbreak of Ebola is not a pandemic as it is not spread very quickly over a wide geographic area throughout the world while affecting a large percentage of the population.  

     So what is it?  Is it an outbreak or an epidemic?  Rather than venturing down this road, I'll let you decide.  UCLA has provided a list of definitions of some pertinent terms at this link: 


     Ultimately, the bottom-line is that what is happening with EBOLA is deeply sad and for every person who has experienced it there is no doubt that it is traumatically serious situation. But in the process of coming to terms with it all and sharing our love and concern for each other as human beings, we must at the very least be culturally competent as we are doing so.  

     Natural Is Cool Enough (N.I.C.E.) sends heartfelt concern and care to all individuals, families, friends and loved ones of those who have been impacted by Ebola, no matter where you are in the world, with hopes that those who are from nations that have been impacted will be treated with the respect and dignity you deserve, culturally and beyond, at all times. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Little Black Girls, In the Book Sunne's Gift, the Author Ama Yawson says Natural IS Cool Enough!

     I ran across an article recently that I am so exited to share.  It is entitled Sunne's Gift:  10 Reasons Why All Little Girls Must Rock Natural Hair. The article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ama-yawson/sunnes-gifts-10-reasons-w_b_5568580.html) focuses on a book entitled Sunne's Gift, which explores the beauty of natural hair and breaks it down for little Black girls and ALL children. 

     So who wrote this gem of a book?  Her name is Ama Yawson.  Here is a little bit about her:

"Ama earned a BA cum laude in Social Studies from Harvard University, an MBA from the Wharton School and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.""

     Her credentials are no doubt impressive and her cause is worthy! In her book, Sunne's Gift, she affirms the beauty of natural hair through the main character, Magbe (Magical being). As stated per her website http://www.milestales.com/:

"With this story, Ama hopes to affirm afro-textured hair while promoting a culture of love and acceptance in which readers learn that there is beauty and power in difference and that celebrating diversity is not just "nice to do", it is essential for our survival."

The author does not hold her tongue in explaining why it is a must that  Little Black Girls wear their hair naturally.  Below, the illustrations give a clear indication of her perspective. 

The author also states the following: "I hope that all parents will read Sunne's Gift to their children because that is the message that ALL of our children need to hear. They need to hear that they are perfect as they are in order to have the confidence to face all of the challenges that life brings."

She asks her readers to take a pledge as depicted below, per her website:

Ultimately, although this book is about natural hair, it goes so far beyond it and ventures in the realm of something very straight forward and that is that we should all love ourselves, just as we are, naturally and of course, that's N.I.C.E.!

Here is the author at one of her book talks:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Natural Is Cool Enough in Nairobi, Kenya: The Natural Hair Revolution is Global!

Similar to the United States, in Kenya, Black women spend a great deal of time and money on maintaining their hairstyles.  Formerly, perms and weaves had become very popular in Kenya.  But as stated by a  woman named Monica Wamaitha, who works in a Salon in Downtown Nairobi:

“I decided to go natural because I want to be myself. I don’t want to perm my hair or put weaves because I want to be myself with my natural hair,” she said. 

For more detail on this wonderful and rapid change that is taking place on the continent of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya (East Africa) check out the article at this link: http://www.voanews.com/content/kenya-women-saving-time-money-with-return-to-natural-hair/2434762.html

Per this article some of the reasons the Kenyan women expressed a return to natural hair include hair damage and scalp burns from chemicals, the desire to use natural products as a result of fear of getting cancer from chemicals in hair products, natural hair is more cost effective, weaves are considered "too plastic," and natural hair is easy to maintain.

So Kenyan sisters, no matter the reason, N.I.C.E. is enthusiastic about your return to your natural hair because the natural hair revolution is on and the movement towards natural hair is going global! That's, of course, N.I.C.E.!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Blackish" was very "Nappy/Nappish" for Episode II: So Natural IS Cool Enough on Network T.V.!

Last week when I watched "Blackish," I expressed enthusiasm about the fact that Tracee Ellis Ross was adorning her natural curls for all to see.  She did not disappoint on this Wednesday night by continuing the same beautiful presentation of her lovely tresses.  Previously, I had expressed some concern about the little girls and how their hair was deeply pressed and straight but that was definitely not the case this time around. Both girls were naturally free! The older daughter's hair was beautifully curly and the little girl, based on the story line, made reference to the fact that her mom had not combed her hair (towards the end of the show) so hers was just all over her head in a carefree way, so I guess we could say in her case, it was "nappish". The untamed, wild hairdo said "no" to the straight, every hair in place mentality, which was just wonderful! Some time ago,  I wrote a piece about this entitled "To Tame or Not to Tame: That Is the Question, (http://naturaliscoolenough.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.htmlz)  and I am an advocate for allowing natural hair to be free.   Even Anthony Anderson showed the naps on his chest!  It is just delightful to watch this Black family on screen, on one of the major networks, visually affirming, through their beautiful hair, that Natural Is Cool Enough while simultaneously providing glimpses into the home of a Black family. Blackish, we appreciate that you are Nappy/Nappish!  Definitely N.I.C.E.!